Village Council Meeting
This was a public meeting in the Village Hall attended by various political figures from the Palestinian Authority and nearby towns. The main topics were the increasing unemployment and poverty in the village since the Wall was built. Politicians tend to be much the same the world over so there was lots of "We are doing our best" and "It's out of our hands" and the villagers gradually got more frustrated. As one said, "We come to these meetings all the time and nothing ever happens."
One man told how his son had become a suicide bomber out of frustration at the occupation and the Wall, but gradually the questions from the floor turned to problems within the PA itself, particularly allegations of corruption and there were some quite heated debates.
For me there are few sights more beautiful in the Middle East than the rolling valleys of fields of olive trees. The olive tree is the emblem of Palestinian villages and its branches are famous throughout the world as a symbol for peace.
The Wall in this part of the West Bank has been completed now, although there are rumours that it might be enlarged again. Around the Jayous area it takes the form of an 8 metres tall high-security fence, complete with barbed wire and occasional watchtowers.
To get through the Wall you have to use the special gates at varying intervals. Some are open 24 hours, permanently manned by soldiers. The one that I had to pass through each day to get to the olive fields opens just a few times a day, for an hour in the morning, lunch and evening.
Or it's supposed to at least. After one hard day's work the soldiers decided not to turn up until over an hour after the official opening time - so we simply had to sit there and wait and wait and wait while other army jeeps drove past and laughed. This was during Ramadan too so the farmers had been working all day in the dusty fields without water or food and were late back for breaking the fast and the call to prayer.
Uprooted olive trees
In order to build the Wall the Israeli army uprooted thousands of olive trees belonging to the village. Needless to say, no compensation was offered. In the village Mayor's front garden there are the remains of the trunk of the oldest tree to be destroyed. It was apparently 600 years old, although some added that it was from Roman times, which is obviously a considerable bit more, so I'm not sure that anyone really knows. What is certain is that it won't be getting any older. For a village dependent on olive picking, the loss of so many trees is a huge blow.
Farming under occupation
Jayous is 6 kilometres from the Green Line, the official border between Israel and the West Bank, yet the Wall has been built deep inside Palestinian territory, right beside the village.
Jayous is a small farming village, where 70% of the people are entirely dependent on agriculture for their income. Yet three quarters of their land is now on the Israeli side of the Wall, effectively controlled by the Israeli army. Seven wells that provide the village with water are also on the 'other' side.
To get to their own farmland, or to cross through the Wall under any circumstances, the people of Jayous must apply for permits. These are given pretty randomly - one brother from a family may get one while another is denied. Some entire families are refused permits and so cannot access their fields at all. It's rare that an entire family can get permission, making harvesting the fields a much harder and slower process than ever before. Some estimate that due to the Wall a total of 60,000 working days will be lost to the village every year!
The fields lost behind the Wall include olives, oranges, guavas, carob, wheat, almonds, avocados and greenhouses full of cucumbers and tomatoes.
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